Startup Prayas Analytics, a company run by two juniors in the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, just signed its first giant deal with a top-50 retailer. It will apply its software to security recordings from 1,200 national stores and analyze it to improve stock layout and reduce customer downtime.
The company focuses on two major things, improving shopping efficiency by helping customers find what they want faster, and reducing wait times at the checkout by analyzing cashier speed.
Prayas's software looks at what customers are buying and where in the store they go to get it. If popular items are near the rear of the store, the report may indicate that retailers should shift merchandise around to reduce wasted foot time. Likewise, unpopular products may be moved to more prominent spots or to less conspicuous areas to avoid clutter.
In an interview with their school news site, Prayas founders Yash Kothari and Pranshu Maheshwari said they're already looking to expand into other sectors, including healthcare, which they feel could be made more efficient with analysis of staff routines and the routes that they take through the facility.
Shortening long routes and cutting back on bottlenecks during busy hours can make any business more efficient, and the video footage is already on file.
Who's watching whom?
The pair acknowledged that there are some privacy concerns when it comes to pre-recorded footage, especially when it's handed off to a private firm like theirs. However, they stressed in the Daily Pennsylvanian that their focus is on the store and the masses of customers, not individual people.
Most of the time, security recordings aren't detailed enough to pick out faces anyway, but either way, Prayas Analytics doesn't look at customer-specific factors right now.
The boys will need to stay on their toes, though. They may have the edge on a lot of analytics companies now, but it won't be long before others pick up on this trend and begin offering a comparable service. In fact, Prism Skylabs is already offering something very similar, though it focuses more on immediate and real-time tracking of customers.
Through its web-based app, Prism lets its clients view customers (blurred in-the case of high-def cameras) shopping in real time, check their dwell time on individual products, see the directions people take when browsing the aisles, and even receive text updates when certain targets are met.
On top of that, Prism offers to store all of that data -- including the original feed -- in the cloud.
Millions and millions of hours of security footage are recorded every day by corporations around the US and the rest of the world, and it's just waiting for analytics to unleash its true value.